Hilgendorf sentenced to life in prison - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Hilgendorf sentenced to life in prison


MARENGO (KWWL) -- A Belle Plaine man has been sentenced to life in prison for his role in the murder of Curtis Bailey.

Jacob Hilgendorf, 21, was found guilty of First Degree Murder last month by a Scott County jury.  The trial was moved to Scott County because of pre-trial publicity.

Sentencing took place Tuesday morning at the Iowa County Courthouse in Marengo.

Hilgendorf was accused along with his mother, 45-year-old Denise Frei, and his girlfriend 20-year-old Jessica Dayton, in the beating death of Bailey at his Marengo home.

Prosecutors argued that Frei planned to kill Bailey who was her common law husband by promising that she, Dayton and Bailey would have sex together. Frei then got Bailey drunk on alcohol.

Prosecutors said Hilgendorf was aware of this plan and helped kill Bailey once the man was both intoxicated and high on marijuana.

Though the state didn't have to prove a motive, prosecuting attorneys said that Hilgendorf, who was 19 at the time, hated Bailey because he kicked Hilgendorf out of the house and essentially banned the teen from seeing his mother, Frei.

Hilgendorf admitted during the investigation that he hit Bailey on the head with a rock and that he killed him.

"I grabbed a rock and I hit him," Hilgendorf said in the recording.

However, in its closing argument, the defense said Hilgendorf's confession was questionable and that it came amidst a several-hour-long interview, in which the special agent conducting it pressed hard for a confession from the teen.

Also, the defense said, Hilgendorf gave statements during the interview that were later determined to be untrue or unlikely. That, his attorneys said, leads to questioning the validity of his confession.

The jury deliberated for seven hours before returning the guilty verdict.

Hilgendorf's attorney motioned for a mistrial before the sentencing began which was denied.  They will appeal.

Dayton went on trial last year and was found guilty of First Degree Murder in April. She is serving a life sentence.

Frei's trial is scheduled to begin in August.

At Tuesday's sentencing, Curtis Bailey's family talked about the impact of finding out they had lost their loved one.

"My stomach turns and my heart races even now when I think why it happened and how it happened, and how I was going to tell my 14 year old son that his father was dead," said Michelle Geary, Bailey's ex-wife.

"I thought it was impossible for someone I trusted so much, and liked so much, could do something this terrible to me and my family," said Alex Bailey, Curtis' son.

Hilgendorf declined to comment before the judge handed down his mandatory life sentence.

Afterwards, Bailey's son told the media justice had been served.

"It was nerve-racking and gratifying to know that he was in chains, he was in an orange jumpsuit, and he's going to go to jail."


Online reporter:  Jason Epner

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